Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Famous Quotes on Foresight

Some of these may be familiar but they're still amusing.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."
- Bill Gates (1955-), in 1981

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
- Decca Recording Company, rejecting the Beatles, in 1962

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
- Harry Morris Warner (1881-1958), co-founder of Warner Brothers, in 1927

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
- Thomas Watson (1874-1956), Chairman of IBM, in 1943

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a C, the idea must be feasible."
- A Yale University management professor, in response to student Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service (Smith went on to found Federal Express)
taken from

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Letter to Protest the Mining Regulations Amendment Proposal

This is a letter you can send to the Federal Ministers for the Environment, and Fisheries & Oceans, the Federal Opposition for same, and the Provincial counterparts.

Dear Minister,

As a proud citizen of Newfoundland & Labrador’s natural beauty I ask that government take action to stop the plan by Environment Canada to change the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations, so that new mines will not be allowed use unspoiled fish-bearing ponds to dump their toxic waste. The proposed Schedule 2 amendment to the MMER would allow ANY mine in Canada to pollute new fresh water areas. In addition to being ethically and environmentally wrong, it is in violation of the Fisheries Act, Section 36, and could even open the door to have the Fisheries Act changed. That this amendment was proposed in the first place is alarming. If it were to be passed into law it will go down in history as a step back in time to when it was acceptable to contaminate precious ecosystems teeming with life. That idea is completely objectionable.

The mining company Aur Resources plan to use two fish bearing ponds in Central Newfoundland to dump their toxic mine tailings. This would set a precedent of restoring a bygone practice that had been abolished. Many more mining companies would be getting in line to also use pristine Canadian ponds for their tailings disposal. Newfoundland & Labrador and all other provinces need to preserve and nurture the ponds, lakes, aquatic and wildlife in our ecosystems, rather than pollute more of them for decades to come, while paying for clean up, maintenance and health problems possibly resulting from contaminated areas. It would be a loss for future generations and an abuse of our province simply for the benefits of a company’s short term gain.

There are alternatives for the Duck Pond mining project, but Aur Resources have not seriously considered them in the Environment Impact Statement. The proposed Schedule 2 amendment to the MMER should be retracted so that the Fisheries Act, Section 36 principle of not allowing "deleterious substances" into fish bearing ponds will be upheld.

As a concerned citizen I demand that Environment Canada and the Department of Fisheries & Oceans take a stand which protects and preserves our environment. I want to send the message that our lakes and waterways are not open for business. I strongly urge you to intervene to stop the archaic Schedule 2 amendment from being law.

Sincerely Yours,


Federal Environment Minister

The Honourable Rona Ambrose

The Honourable Loyola Hearn
Federal Minister, Fisheries and Oceans

The Hon. Bill Matthews

Federal Fisheries Critic

The Honourable Scott Brison

Federal Environment Critic

The Honourable Clyde Jackman

Environment Minister for Newfoundland & Labrador

Mr. Gerry Reid

Leader of the NL Official Opposition, and Fisheries and Aquaculture critic

Hon. Percy Barrett

Environment and Labour Critic for Newfoundland & Labrador

Quick Backgrounder: Environment Canada has proposed a change to the Metal Mining Effluents Regulations (MMER) which will allow mining companies to pollute unspoiled fish-bearing ponds to dump their toxic waste (currently illegal). This would mean that any pristine life-giving pond or lake in Canada could be contaminated. But this is not law yet, however, it could be unless government officials hear people's objections about this, then take action to see that it does not proceed, hence the letter.

For more background, please scroll down the page to read the May 21 & 26 posts.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Mining Regulation Change Threatens Ecosystems & Fisheries Act

If proposed amendments to the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER) are not retracted then any fresh water body in the province or the country could be polluted with toxic waste from mining. In other words, "deleterious substances" will be allowed to pollute fish-bearing waters which is contrary to Section 36 of the Fisheries Act. At the risk of over-using the word precedent, this proposed change, which is not yet law, would set a precedent for this practice to be more easily used at ANY minesite in Canada.

If ponds and fish habitats multiplied like the seal population there would be less reason for concern. However, what mining companies send into tailings ponds is not vitamin D. To use the iceberg analogy, often what we see and hear looks good on the surface but much of the potential harm lies under water, literally. Some dark consequences of using ponds for tailings are immediate and obvious, while other repercussions may be long term, and less apparent. Immediately, fish and their habitats can be destroyed, later, the food chain may be gradually contaminated. Who knows what percentage of health problems can be attributed to cumulative toxic build up in our bodies already? It has only been in the last couple of years that the public is kindly being saturated with helpful information on trans fats in foods. I think that many food companies thought that what we don't know, won't hurt them. Trans fat has been linked to 100's of thousands of deaths due to heart disease. Whether it's food or the environment, preventative measures seem like the best way to lessen the risk of health & environment problems.

Members of ENGO (Environmental Non-governmental Organizations) strongly oppose the Schedule 2 amendment. Here's what the proposed Schedule 2 Amendments will do:

- include a new definition of "tailings impoundment areas" (tailings are the valueless minerals & mining waste materials)
- will list two new water bodies in Central Newfoundland onto Schedule 2
- and will allow "new" mines to use natural water bodies - including fish-bearing water bodies - for the purpose of depositing tailings.

The new provisions will also require a company to prepare fish habitat compensation plans to support the DFO principle of "no net loss". That compensation would be most likely for some other area considered to be environmentally damaged.

Experts like Dr. Joseph Rasmussen, Dr. John Gibson, Dr. Catherine Coumans, agree with DFO that harmful alteration, disruption, or destruction (HADD) of fish habitat will occur as a result of using fish-bearing water bodies as a tailings impoundment area.

From my communications with Mining Watch, ENGO and Mr. Chad Griffiths it appears that none of Aur Resources compensation plans, including those approved by DFO, are anywhere near scientifically adequate to show that "no net loss" of fish habitat will be achieved by the plans. As I mentioned in a previous blog, there does not apppear to be any evidence of serious consideration of alternative means to deal with mine effluents.

What are the environmental risks of zinc-copper tailings in ponds?

  • Loss of Habitat: due to acidic drainage that will occur as a result of dumping millions of tonnes of pyrite-rich mine wastes.
  • Potential degradation of riverine quality: resulting from hydrological impacts, combined with the toxic seepage into aquifers and surface waters of the Exploits Rever watershed.
  • Long term future of tailings ponds, environmental risks and liability issues. Acid-generating wastes must be kept underwater in order to minimize the rate of oxidation by Thiobacillus bacteria... the water levels in the tailings ponds must be maintained in perpetuity. This raises the question as to who is going to pay the costs of maintaining the dams that regulate these water levels.

    What wildlife is sustained at Trout Pond?
    Click this link for a detailed description of the aquatic and wildlife diversity in the Duck Pond area.

    Personally I suspect that company economics is the reason why no serious consideration went into finding alternate tailings impoundment methods. If that is the case, then would it be more economical for Aur Resources to post a financial bond to maintain a freshwater pond for decades to come, as opposed to building a safer facility now? A report of the first man-made sub-aqueous tailings disposal at Louvicourt Mine was released in 2005. It stated that it was a success. Aur Resources was applauded in 1995 for its support of this innovation. In my humble opinion it seems like they could save themselves alot of financial and ethical grief by going with a more environmentally safe tailings management method.

    One could also be suspicious that DFO and/or Environment Canada has been facilitating industrial development. Dr. Catherine Coumans wrote a background and history of the MMER in 2005. It appears that the MMER was originally protective of Section 36 of the Fisheries Act. However, the 2004 proposed amendments were seemingly rushed along. Environment Canada announced that the MMER review process would be sped up, because Aur Resources wanted to start a new copper lead zinc mine called the Duck Pond Project, using Trout Pond as a tailings dump as early as the summer of 2006.

    Newfoundland & Labrador and Canada is dotted with ponds, lakes, and wetlands that may be conveniently close to new mining projects. Not only would a pleasant clean ecosystem be tarnished, but people's freedom now and in the future would be more restricted. It would mean less places where you could drink from, fish from, swim in, and enjoy wildlifes sights and sounds. But as Dr. John Gibson put it on CBCs Radio Noon show last week, how can you compensate for an evolving unique species once they're gone, or replicate their specific habitat? Efforts should be continued to plan a safe and non-polluting solution to the tailings impoundment controversy. That would be a good precedent. If a mining company dumped tailings in a pond near me, I'd be poisoned!
  • Description of Wildlife in the Duck Pond Area

    This is an excellent description taken from a comment posted by Chad Griffiths:

    “ (Salmo salar), non-anadromous or landlocked salmon (ouananiche), brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus), American eel (Anguilla rostrata), and the three-spine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

    Both Harpoon Brook (including Trout Pond, Trout Pond Brook, and the unnamed brook draining the wetland south of Trout Pond) and Noel Paul’s Brook (including Tally Pond, Tally Pond Brook, West Tally Pond, and West Tally Pond Brook) contain brook trout and Atlantic salmon, although anadromous salmon and Arctic char have not been reported in the ponds at the Project site. The total area of stream habitat in the Exploits watershed has been estimated to be
    349,000 units of all habitat types (where 1 unit = 100 m2).”

    A variety of species of avifauna are known to occur in the Duck Pond area. These include a range of waterfowl and shorebirds (e.g., green-winged teal (Anas crecca), black duck (Anas rubripes), northern pintail (Anas acuta), ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris), common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), common merganser (Mergus merganser), red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator), Canada goose (Branta canadensis), common loon (Gavia immer), greater yellow-legs (Tringa melanoleuca), common snipe (Gallinago gallinago), and spotted sandpiper (Actitis macularia)). Raptors that may be found in the region include merlin (Falco columbrius), American kestrel (Falco sparverius), northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), great horned owl (Bobo virginianus), northern goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), sharp-shinned hawk (Accipter striatus), boreal owl (Aegolius funereus), and northern hawk owl (Surnia ulula), as well as others. A total of 58 species of avifauna have been observed in the area over the past decade, including a variety of songbirds, such as warblers, thrushes, finches, and woodpeckers, as well as waterfowl and raptors. Aquatic furbearers such as beaver (Castor canadensis), otter (Lutra canadensis), and mink (Mustela
    vison) are known to be present in the area. Muskrat (Ondatra zebithicus) are also likely present in low densities. Other furbearer species likely to be present include: lynx (Lynx lynx); short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and coyote (Canis latrans).”

    -Page viii, ix (Duck Pond EIS Executive Summary)

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Mining Company Wants to Poison Two Ponds in Central Newfoundland

    This story only caught my attention a few days ago, when Anne Budgell on CBC Radio (scroll down for the May 18 link) interviewed two guests about the Duck Pond mine development. Her guests were Dr. John Gibson, a retired biologist, and Chad Griffiths of the Trout Pond Action Group. Their information about the Duck Pond Mine project was very disturbing. Aur Resources (pronounced 'Oar') intends to use two fish bearing ponds to dump their toxic waste there, thus, destroying a trout and salmon habitat, and permanently ruining the ponds and other water areas with the acid remnants from copper and zinc mining. These ponds are located in central Newfoundland, joined to the Exploits river, and close to Buchans. Dr. Gibson said that there will be toxic run out from zinc and copper, and the acid waste will poison more brooks, Harpoon & Trout Brook, and Gill's Pond Brook. Dr. Gibson adds that zinc and copper are highly lethal and that the ponds will be poisoned in perpetuity.

    Mining watchdog, says, "Alternatives to using the lakes for tailings (toxic waste from mining) disposal were never properly evaluated, and the plan to compensate for the destruction is inadequate."

    According to Dr. Gibson, under the Fisheries Act, no toxic waste can be deposited into a fish bearing habitat. He made a great point as he described his objection to how Aur Resources thinks it's cheaper to use a pond as a dump.
    Because if you were obliged to make a lake the size of Quidi Vidi, stock it with unique fish community, birds, plants, fur bearing creatures, etc., it wouldn't be done. And yet they think it's cheaper.
    Chad Griffiths added that an artificial impoundment alternative was not mentioned in the Environmental Impact statement.

    What's equally upsetting is that this seems to be slipping through with the quiet approval of the Dept. of Fisheries & Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada (EC). When such a project is undertaken a proper environmental assessment is required, and all alternatives to using new ponds, i.e., ponds that have not previously been used for dumping toxins, have to be explored. This is one of the problems. There is an alternative to using pristine bodies of water to hold mining waste.

    Located near Val d'Or, Quebec, the Louvicourt Mine has been in operation since 1994. Aur Resources was a 30% owner as well as mine manager. The decision was made to not destroy natural water bodies for mine waste disposal, but to create manmade structures, and it was "overall a successful endeavour."

    Right now it seems that the only reason Aur Resources want to use Duck Pond and Trout Pond is pure greed, that is, it is more cost efficient. Meanwhile, the prices for copper and zinc are at a higher rate now than when the Duck Pond proposal was first put forward. I have yet to hear of a reason why besides saving a few bucks for the company, that an artificial containment facility cannot be constructed.

    Another problem mentioned by Mining Watch Canada, Dr. Gibson and Chad Griffiths, is that the fish capacity study, mandated by DFO for Aur Resources to conduct on Trout Pond, was not carried out correctly. For example, testing on fish habitat was supposed to be done over a period of time after the late summer when temperatures are high. However, Aur Resources did a study for 10 days during the summer. This flawed study (see p. 4) was also applied to another pond. So the methodology was wrong, and yet DFO and EC are allowing Aur Resources to move forward with thier plan to ruin ponds in Central Newfoundland.

    Yet another suspicious ommision from Aur Resource's plan is that they provide no evidence that a bond has been posted adequate to cover costs of perpetual monitoring of ground and surface waters around the mine and perpetual maintenance of the dams that will keep the toxic mine waste from contaminating the Exploits River system. - Mining Watch Canada

    The mine will only operate for 6.3 years, but the maintainance of the mine and waste disposal area will be permanent.

    Mining Watch Canada (MWC) is a pan-Canadian initiative supported by environmental, social justice, Aboriginal and labour organisations from across the country. MWC is currently participating, as a member of The Canadian Environmental Network (CEN), in a multistakeholder review of the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations (MMER). A revised regulations came into force in 2002 - following a 12 year review process - with a new appendix, Schedule 2, that was added at the very end of the review process. Schedule 2 identifies tailings impoundment areas. By being placed on Schedule 2 a natural water body is redefined as a tailings impoundment area. The new Schedule 2 would allow new ponds and lakes to be used as toxic dumps. Aur Resources can set a dangerous precedent by getting permission to add Duck & Trout Ponds to the Schedule 2.

    Chad Griffiths described this action as a "significant and substantial change in Canadian Environment Policy." He goes on to say that this
    lays the limbo bar relatively low for any mining company in Canada to say 'there's a pond relatively close to our operation .. so why not here?' It's a dangerous precedent.
    In 2002, CEN representatives in the review process were assured that Schedule 2 would serve to deal with 'historic' cases in which lakes had been used as tailings impoundment as these mines would otherwise find themselves out of compliance with the regulation. Environment Canada and DFO officials have approved the inclusion of these two ponds onto Schedule 2 of the revised regulations.

    Aur Resources and Canadian regulating authorities (Environment Canada, DFO) are statutorily obligated to seek alternatives to the destruction of fresh water bodies for industrial purposes.

    According to Mining Watch, Aur Resources, the NL Dept. of Environment & Conservation, and DFO, did not do all they could to explore alternatives to the destruction of two ponds for mine waste disposal.

    How will the ponds be polluted?

    AMD (Acid Mine Drainage) is the number one problem facing the mining industry in Canada. AMD occurs when sulphide-bearing minerals in rock are exposed to air and water, changing the sulphide to sulphuric acid. This acid dissolves heavy metals such as lead, zinc, copper, arsenic, cadminium, selenium and mercury into ground and surface water. Certain bacteria, naturally present, can significantly increase the rate of this reaction. - source: Mining Watch Canada

    As alluded to earlier this is a dangerous and significant backward step in environmental protection and conservation. There are other mining companies already lining up to use the Schedule 2 to allow other pristine waters in different parts of Canada for toxic waste disposal (the Red Chris & Kemess North projects in BC, and the Wabush mine in Labrador). There will probably be more areas of Newfoundland & Labrador considered to be mining prospects. If the Duck Pond Mine precedent is set, then many other fish bearing ponds could be destroyed in the future. So is this really taking control of our resources, and not give aways? I don't think so. Our elected officials past and present should have demanded no less than the preservation of our land and water, and no further damage to new and previously untouched ponds and lakes.

    It seemed like a bit of dark humour when Aur Resources used the innocent sounding Duck Pond Mine, to name their polluting mine. I would like to see people get work but not see Duck Pond's name changed to Dead Duck Pond in the near future.

    We have a beautiful province and fresh water is one of the most valuable resources we have. As a citizen of this province I object to the way that this project is taking place. Jobs for people in the Buchans area are important, but Aur Resources can develop its mine but not to the detriment of our pristine environment. When they are gone in 7 years, they might be leaving behind a perpetual toxic mess for the people of our province to have to pay for and maintain. However, this does not have to be the case. They can use the alternative of a manmade containment structure to hold the waste, and at the same time, preserve our ponds, fish, wildlife, and provide people with employment. For my part I will write the NL Department of Environment, and contacts at Mining Watch Canada to add my protest to the way this mining project is being planned.

    * Chad Griffiths ( announced that there is a meeting on Wed., May 24, at the MUN University Centre, Rm. 2000.


    NL Dept. of Environment and Conservation
    Minister Clyde Jackman, 729-2574

    Call the CBC Noon Line to voice your opinion on this, 576-5262. The toll free number is 1-866-576-5262 for long distance anywhere in North America.

    Here are other contacts in case anyone is interested to send a message regarding this issue:

  • Patrick Finlay of Environment Canada,
  • Georgette Muller, PCO Policy Analyst,
  • Joan Kuyek, Mining Watch Canada National Coordinator,
  • Sarah Heiberg, Caucus Coordinator, Canadian Environmental Network,
  • Thursday, May 11, 2006

    Outmigration & Economic Diversification

    No matter what the causes or possible solutions are for NL's chronic high unemployment, one feels a duel sense of loss, yet pride, when a family member has to move away for work. 1000's of families in Newfoundland & Labrador experience this every year. This weeks outmigration included my brother, one of his co-workers, and brother-in-law - three skilled, talented and valuable people. They are all in their 50's, and have left the Burin Peninsula because the fishing industry which employed them for decades has closed its doors. Though I feel the void of daily communications with my brother already, it is a good yet sad story. The sad part is obvious, leaving a home, wife, family & friends, community involvement, and comfort. A gifted musician, hard worker, and community volunteer, he continues to make me proud. At 52, he will work at least 60 hours per week in his new job. None of them wanted to leave, but the options are currently limited. The good side of the story is that they are like 1000's of other Newfoundlanders who leave NL each year, and proved their determination to work.

    Also, because of Alberta's amazing economic growth, it has a big appetite for migrant workers from all over Canada, thus, mouth watering salaries and wages are earned by workers. In that regard it is great to see Newfoundlander & Labradorians get a piece of the rich economic pie. Fat is good when it is followed by 'pay cheque'. Often times money earned outside the province is sent home to help pay the bills, for kids' education, etc. It is still sad that so many long to stay home but have to stay away for long times. Newfoundland's economy is diversified, yet needs
    to increase to keep more people here.

    Our population has dropped by almost 3000 people between Oct. 2004 and Jan. 2006. From 5000 - 9000+ leave the province each year. There have been strategic economic plans for the province, comparisons to successful Iceland, and perhaps an over-hopefulness about what mega projects can do for employment right across the province. Some of the projects like the Lower Churchill, Hebron, take a long time to become a reality, and have stumbling blocks to development, like the energy bill from the Newfoundland government. Overall I think our economy is progressing but

    While big projects are being developed, our leaders in whatever government in power, should always send a message to our people to never take any potential development for granted. As a people we should continually be encouraged to analyse the potential that our individual talents have, to not just Newfoundland consumers, but to international buyers. There are a number of internationally renowned high tech businesses, boat tours, and island lodge stay overs, but there is much more potential to develop not just more of that type of things, but products and services
    from skilled people, be it art works, rentals, guides, different vacation packages, photograhy tours, entertainment (music, comedy) etc. The point is to promote a new perception of how we view value in the places we live, and the things we do.

    Newfoundland and Labrador is a massive area of beauty, and for many foreign tourists, it can also be seen as, exciting, exotic, clean, innocent, and idealogical place to vacation, and to do business. I'll bet that many who leave home may be able to look back on their towns as having potential to draw tourists to see its beauty, perhaps be part of a cultural event, e.g., concerts, plays, berry fests, hiking scenic vantage points, historic re-enactments. We have a rich heritage and history, and we should remind ourselves that it is valuable, and outsiders may also find our province

    There is no easy solution for NL's economic challenges. However, the current William's government, with the Blue Book guide, sounds like a sound approach, though whether the job & business initiatives are followed up on is
    another matter. There very well may have been some overlap in programs to facilitate business, IT, etc. from previous governments, but the idea of promoting diversity in the economy is the best avenue for sustained economic development in NL & Labrador. We also have to learn what succeeds in places like Iceland, and listen to long-term advice about how we can best take advantage of economic opportunities. We need to continually educate ourselves about the world, what it needs, what it wants, and how our province can match those needs and wants. Hopefully, much of the talent and skill we export can be re-patriated to benefit our province. One industry of opportunity where geography does not matter so much is the IT sector. One can for example, do a software training session with a client in Texas, or a website for anyone in the world.

    Many people take where they live for granted. But the geography, culture, and traditions may be very appealing to say, Japanese tourists. Just the broad expanse of land itself is a wonder to many from countries where land is a rare luxury. Just as a country on the other side of the world is seen by us as being exotic, we can be appealling to those same countries and seen to be "exotic". Our mindsets needs to view our province and communities that way. The Hibernia & Terra Nova oilfields are great discoveries to help our economy, but they and other mega projects will probably not reverse the outmigration flow, overnight. Our population is declining, especially since the 1993 cod moratorium. Outmigration peaked in 1996-97/ & 1997/98 but is still high - 11,882 in 2004/2005, and will continue for many years. Though the NL Statistics Agency projects a continuous population decline for at least the next decade, the rate can be slowed the more our economy diversifies. Even oil rich Alberta couldn't depend solely on oil revenue in the 80's, when the recession hit and oil prices dropped. Don Getty emphasized economic diversification in high technology, tourism, and forestry. Hopefully we will be hearing more about non-mega project business promotion and development to help keep our most valued resource, our people, here in Newfoundland and Labrador.